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Vettel drive in Abu Dhabi lauded by Red Bull boss

Sebastian Vettel driving his Red Bull at the Yas Marina circuit on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel driving his Red Bull at the Yas Marina circuit on Sunday.

Red Bull team chief Christian Horner heaped praise on defending champion Sebastian Vettel yesterday in the wake of the German’s dazzling drive from the back of the field to finish third in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

As his rivals pointed to the luck that helped him race from starting in the pitlane to a remarkable podium finish that enabled him to keep hold of a 10-point lead in this year’s title race, Horner described his 25-year-old driver’s effort as ‘phenomenal’.

Vettel battled back from a pitlane start and two collisions that damaged his front wing to finish third and lose just three points to main title rival Fernando Alonso, of Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen, of Lotus, won the race with a characteristically determined drive to take full advantage of the retirement of dominant leader Lewis Hamilton, of McLaren, and Alonso finished second.

Horner admitted he did not expect to see such a recovery from Vettel, who had been made to start in the pit lane after being disqualified on Saturday for lack of fuel to give a one-litre sample for analysis.

He said: “I think it was one of the best of his career. I think he really went for it and to go from the pitlane to the podium, it was phenomenal.

“It is not that easy to overtake around here but I went to see Seb before the race and he said, ‘I will see you on the podium’. He was absolutely convinced going into the race... he is just amazing!”

More extraordinary about Vettel’s achievement was that in the early part of the race, it did not look possible and later he seemed to be consigned to finishing the contest on one set of soft tyres.

“We could see from the first set that wear was an issue and we did not want to get to a point that he ran out of tyres,” Horner said.

“So as soon as he was clear of Grosjean it made sense to pit him – and then we felt we could chase down Alonso and Jenson Button, which he went off and tried to do.”

McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh was less effusive and said that to have two Safety Cars in a race at the Yas Marina Circuit was unusual.

“I think he was pretty fortunate with Safety Cars and the general ‘demolition derby’ that was going on in that race,” he said.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali said: “He did a great race and he was pushing like as normal.

“He had moments where he was lucky or unlucky – it depends on how you see things. It is part of the game.”

Two races remain – at Austin in the US and Sao Paulo in Brazil later this month – to settle the issue in this roller-coaster title race.

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